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Snow White: A Deadly Summer (2012)

DVD Released: 3/20/2012

All Ratings out of

Movie: 1/2



Review by Mike Long, Posted on 2/29/2012

We've all heard the old adage -- practice makes perfect. If you do something for long enough, you'll eventually get good at it. This idea can be applied to all walks of life -- work, sports, relationships (well, maybe not). Since 1985, David DeCoteau has directed over 90 projects. He started in the adult industry and then began working with Charles Band, making low-budget horror films. DeCoteau's career has continued on this path and he typically makes two or more movies a year. So, after all of this time and practice, DeCoteau must be a great director and all of his movies are classics, right? If Snow White: A Deadly Summer is any indication, after all of these years, DeCoteau hasn't learned a thing.

Snow (Shanley Caswell) is a teenaged girl who lives with her father, Garnt (Eric Roberts), and step-mother, Eve (Maureen McCormick). When Snow's boyfriend is caught joyriding in a stolen car, Eve suggests that the girl is out of control and suggests sending her to a wilderness camp. Grant reluctantly agrees and two men come in the night to take Snow to Camp Allegiance. Once there, Snow meets the camp director, Hunter (Tim Abell) and her fellow campers -- Cole (Chase Bennett), Lauren (Chelsea Rae Bernier), Erica (Hunter Ansley Wryn), Sara (Kelsey Weber), Jason (Patrick Lewey), Mya (Camille Cregan), and Sean (Aaron Jaeger) -- all of who are at the camp for various reasons.
The kids are forced to take medications daily and Snow begins to have very vivid dreams which involve the other delinquents. She also sees a hooded figure in the woods. When campers start to disappear, Snow can't help but wonder if the old legend about a camper who once killed someone there is true. Unable to reach her father, Snow must unravel the mystery herself.

The definition of a "feature film" is typically related to a movie's running time -- traditionally, 80 minutes or more is considered a feature film. But, I think that more than the length of a movie should determine whether or not we consider it a legitimate movie. Every movie can't look like the latest Michael Bay $200 million blockbuster, but it should look like a group of semi-competent filmmakers were behind it.

Yes, DeCoteau has built his reputation on making low-budget movies, but Snow White: A Deadly Summer literally looks like it was shot in someone's backyard. "Camp Allegiance" consists of one room and a patio. The campers sleep in sleeping bags on a gentle slope. (I've actually visited a wilderness camp and the resident did sleep outside, but they were in bunks in a covered area, not doing something which looked like a poorly planned sleepover.) The funny thing is that Snow and the others complain a lot, but they never question this practice. The movie uses a ridiculous amount of day-for-night footage. Didn't the makers of this movie think that it would look odd when the movie suddenly went from bright daylight to...blue? It looked like James Cameron had just run through. Speaking of running times (and we were), it appears that DeCoteau didn't shoot enough footage to make a "feature film". Therefore, Snow keeps having flashbacks and flash-forwards which consist of footage which we've seen before or will see. For some reason, she keeps seeing her boyfriend's joyride over and over.

All of this could (and that's a big could) if Snow White: A Deadly Summer even attempted to have some sort of semi-coherent storyline. Snow is sent to camp, some people die, she meets a weird woman, and then it ends. There is a plot here, but there isn't much of a story. The characters are blank slates, their actions rarely make sense, and the dialogue is laughable. This is a straight-ahead thriller, save for the fact that Eve may have supernatural powers. The ending is a cop-out and Eric Robert's reaction to the news he delivers in the finale would have made Ed Wood laugh. And, to cap things off, the final shot makes no sense whatsoever. They clearly didn't know how to end the movie. Of course, it is good to see Marcia Brady getting work.

We've seen examples in the past of what Hollywood likes to call "synergy" when two movies with similar plots hit theaters relatively close together. We've also seen another phenomenon when direct-to-video titles sound suspiciously like major theatrical movies. Two Snow White movies, Mirror Mirror and Snow White and the Huntsman, will be hitting theaters soon. I can only imagine that will be better than Snow White: A Deadly Summer. Of course, most anything would be.

Snow White: A Deadly Summer went all out in the costume department on DVD courtesy of Lionsgate. The movie has been letterboxed at 1.78:1 and the transfer has been enhanced for 16 x 9 TVs. The image is sharp and clear, showing no grain and no defects from the source materials. (I assume that this was shot using HD equipment.) The image is a bit dark at times and the day-for-night shots create some noticeable shimmering. The colors look alright, but there is some video noise at the bottom of the picture. The DVD carries a Dolby 2.0 stereo audio track which provides clear dialogue and sound effects. I've got to hand it to whoever handled this mix -- they've tried their best to make it interesting, as the audio is presented in the left and right channels whenever possible. This could have easily rested in the center channel, but the creative movement of the sound shows that someone cared.

The Snow White: A Deadly Summer DVD contains only three extras. We begin with an AUDIO COMMENTARY from Director David DeCoteau and actors Chase Bennett and Jason-Shane Scott. Next we have a STILLS GALLERY which contains a dozen pictures. The final extra is a TRAILER for the movie.

Review Copyright 2012 by Mike Long